GoHorseShow is sad to report the passing of 17 year-old Tickle
Me Tailwind due to complications associated with colic. The
chestnut mare by Mr Zippo Win and out of Scooters Ms Sandy was owned for 15 years by
Select Amateur, Kathy Willeke of Adkins, Texas.
The team won a total of six AQHA World Show Top Tens starting in 2001. In 2008, at their first Select World Show, they were Reserve World Champions in the Showmanship in what Kathy called, "The best run of my life." The mare accumulated over 850 points over the course of her career.
"Tickle never quit trying for me. We knew each other so well and she knew exactly where and when to get me to scratch her belly. She would even show me where to scratch," Kathy fondly remembers. "She showed her appreciation by sticking her lip out and quivering and drooling. She would even return the favor by scratching on my back. She was my own personal masseuse. Mares are generally a pain because of the hormones, but she never showed her heat cycle. It was like having a gelding."
In 1997, Willeke was looking for a replacement to the mare she had just retired when she found "Tickle" from her good friend and breeder, Marilyn Henry.
"I fell in love with the two year-old instantly. She was such a positive learner that I got to where I could hardly wait to get to the barn to ride," Kathy recalls. "Trail was my favorite class so as soon as I had her going good, poles became part of her workout. In the meantime, I was missing the show ring so much that I worked on showmanship, too. We were back in the ring by the fall of her two year-old year and never looked back."
Being a teacher, Kathy's income didn't allow for her to have a trainer so she did the best she could on her own.
"Sharon Wellmann and Brad Jewett were so kind to give me lessons on the side when I could afford it, and Nancy Cahill's tapes were my saving grace in western riding and horsemanship," she says.
In 2011, Tickle spent the majority of the year fighting lameness from a hamstring pull. Kathy found herself at a show in San Antonio show in May trying to get her last two trail points to qualify for the 2012 World Show. Though the pattern wasn't a "Tim" pattern, she said she was so happy when she finished clean and soft. It was then that she noticed that Tickle was acting odd.
"I was waiting outside the pen for the results and Tickle kept looking back at her left side," Kathy explained. "She hated it when the sweat ran down her flank, so, I reached down and scratched her. We won under both the judges so our goal was accomplished. I went back into the senior trail, and she did a great job again. While unzipping my chaps, she started stomping her back foot," she says. "That wasn't right. So I jumped off her and she immediately tried to go down. We got her back to the trailer and gave her a Banamine shot and she was okay."
Kathy lived 45 minutes from the show facility, so she drove her home and kept an eye on her. Within 30 minutes, Tickle was showing signs again, so Katy decided to drive her to the vet. Unfortunately, she got worse, and at 17, with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease--can be thought of as asthma for horses), it was decided that surgery was not her best option.
"At 3 am on Mother's Day, I had to say goodbye to my best friend of 15 years, and pray I had made the right decision," Kathy sadly recalls. "It was the worst experience of my life. But as I look back at our time together, I would not have changed anything about it. I have so many awards that she won for me and we did it as a team. I will take her memories to my grave. She is buried in our front pasture now and hopefully running in God's green pasture with all the great horses before her."
What a wonderful partnership you had with your amazing mare!
I have noticed the two of you showing at the WSs before and always admired your horse's good looks and the obvious bond the two of you had. You were always so tuned in to each other and made everything look so smooth and easy.
I had no idea about your 'back story' and find it extremely inspiring that you partnered together for so long, and that you did much of the work with her yourself.
It is so hard to lose such a dear horse friend, but how wonderful for your sweet mare that she had such a caring and compassionate owner! May she RIP...
I have known Kathy for many years and she is both a wonderful trainer and person. I too had to make the decision to put two of my horses down after spending the majority of their lives giving everything they had to be the best equine partner and friend a person could want. It is hard to loose such a good friend and companion. Kathy, keep faith Tickle is now with God and watching over you and thank her for all the wonderful years and "training" that she gave to you!
I just lost my aqha mare last month due to colic issues I owned her for ten years like you said it is so hard as they are part of the family my mare was like yours and did anything you asked of her which is hard to find. I feel your pain.
This story reminds me of my horse…she's a 1995 APHA mare (turned 17 this year too) and like you, I bought her as a 2 year old and still own her. Although she's living the good "far from the show pen" retired life now, she helped me become successful in the "big time" horse show world and I promised her a long time ago that she had a forever home in my life. I love that horse with all my heart and I can't imagine what you must be going through!! You did everything you could for her and I'm glad that you could be there for her in the end. Plus, how awesome that the last thing you were able to do together was win your favorite class under ALL judges….that's better than winning high point in my opinion! :)
I lost my wonderful Mustang gelding Mr Checkers. We too won many awards and trophy's over the years. As we finished the filming of Americas Favorite Trail Horse and went home we knew something was not right. We lost him October 12, 2011. Even though we have saved another mustang I still miss him very much. My heart goes out to you. You will see her again. God will make sure of that and you will be able to ride her again.